South Tyneside chief hails 'game-changing' £450million Envision gigafactory battery plant after plans approved

Plans for a multi-million pound car battery plant on Wearside creating hundreds of jobs have been given the go-ahead by city councillors.

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 2:13 pm
How the Envision AESC's gigafactory is set to look.

Envision AESC said the decision secures its investment of £450million as part of the transformational project, creating 750 green jobs and safeguarding 300 jobs from its existing Sunderland plant.

Construction of the new building on IAMP – which spans land in South Tyneside and Sunderland – is due to begin in 2022 to support battery production in 2024, paving the way for potential future investment of £1.8billion on the site to generate 35GWh capacity and 4,500 new high value green jobs by 2030.

Envision AESC submitted plans for a gigafactory, which will be built at the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) in Washington, earlier this year – with Prime Minister Boris Johnson paying a visit to mark the announcement.

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The PM visiting Nissan. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

The company is a world-leading manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for the automotive industry and has been producing batteries in Sunderland for the Nissan LEAF electric vehicle for nearly a decade.

New plans will see the company move to a larger state-of-the-art building on the IAMP site as part of a £1billion partnership with Nissan UK and Sunderland City Council to create an electric vehicle hub supporting the next generation of electric vehicle production.

The scaled-up plant, which is capable of producing batteries to power more than 100,000 electric vehicles per year, will be powered by 100% renewable energy and supported by a ‘microgrid’ which is being developed by Sunderland City Council.

Plans for the gigafactory were unanimously approved at a meeting of the city council’s Planning and Highways (West) Committee on Tuesday, October 5.

Councillor Tracey Dixon, leader at South Tyneside Council, said: “This is a huge boost for the local economy, and indeed for UK Plc, part of a wider £1billion investment that will secure and create hundreds – thousands – of jobs.

“This is what we hoped IAMP would deliver when we embarked on this partnership with Sunderland City Council, and so, seeing Envision AESC’s plans advance is vindication of our commitment to this important job-creating site.

"We look forward to seeing Envision AESC move forward with this game-changing gigafactory on a site that we are proud to be bringing forward in partnership with South Tyneside Council.”

Envision AESC UK Managing Director Chris Caygill said: ‘‘We are extremely pleased with today’s decision, which means we can get on with the important job of building the plant and recruitment to fully resource the project team.

“We are immensely proud of the work we have done with our strategic partners Nissan UK and Sunderland City Council so far, which has laid the foundations for affordable EVs and sustainable growth in the region for the next generations."

He added: “As a growing global business, we will continue to push the boundaries of battery technology, which has made us a world leading battery supplier, with a safety record that boasts no critical incidents during the last 10 years.”

Nissan Sunderland Plant Vice President, Manufacturing, Alan Johnson said: “This is a fundamental part of our EV36Zero project, bringing together electric vehicle production, battery manufacturing and renewables, and we’re all excited to see the progress being made.”

Lynda Newsome, of planning and development consultancy Lichfields, spoke on behalf of Envision AESC at the meeting.

She said: “Overall the proposals will help Sunderland and the UK become one of the best international locations for automotive and advanced manufacturing, with the proposals building on both Nissan and Envision’s initial investments in the Nissan LEAF in the current battery plant.”

Although concerns were raised about the “nasty chemicals” used in lithium-ion battery production and the safety measures in place, council planners said this would be monitored by a seperate process.

This includes an additional application for ‘hazardous substances’ which will be considered by the council, working alongside the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive.

The Prime Minister gave his seal of approval to the plans when the announcement was made earlier this year – stating that the high-skilled jobs the plant will create will support many future generations.

When completed, the gigafactory will be the largest facility on the IAMP site, which was created by South Tyneside Council and Sunderland City Council in 2018 to attract business investment to the region.

A planning committee report adds that the battery plant development will “continue to support the IAMP AAP aims and objectives to build on the area’s international reputation in the automotive industry, support Nissan and attract European-scale ‘super-suppliers’ linked to the automotive industry.”